Sunday, July 16, 2017

Beach bums at Duck, NC

Another fun week at the Outer Banks is in the books!  It's always hard ending vacation with the stark reality of having to come home to errands, house projects and a business trip.  But as I always say, "don't be sad because it's over, be happy because it happened!"

We went with Johnny's family so we had 21 in the house - 10 adults, 5 teenagers and 6 kids under 9.  We had a great week with no agenda and a lot of bumming around and doing nothing.  We also had a few adventures that the kids will hopefully remember!

The first few days were filled with the pool and beach.  It was pretty hot this week with temps over 95 every day and lots of sun.  It was the first year, though, that we got both Cole and Reagan in the water riding waves.  They had a lot of fun and started to figure out how important it is to stay on the far side of the breakers.  It is also a lot easier to trek down to the beach as the kids get older - they don't really play with beach toys and there's no need for diapers and wipes so it's just towels and chairs.  We were also spoiled with a house across from the beach which also helps.  It's easy to walk back for the bathroom, food or just to get out of the sun for a little bit.

Tuesday I was also able to visit with a dear friend Kelly who I've known since 1st grade!  She lives in Kill Devil Hills so it was great having her visit so we could catch up.  She has a son Cole's age so
they played in the pool which gave us a nice chance to talk.  Strong friendships truly do last a life time - I feel very lucky to have her in my life!  No matter how long it has been, it always feels like yesterday.

Wednesday was a packed day!  It started with a 5:30 am wake up to walk to the beach and watch the sunrise.  Although it seems crazy, the kids really loved it last year and it sparked a lot of engaging discussions about why the sun isn't dripping when it comes out of the water :)  And why you can't watch the sunset on the beach in NC...which led to Never Eat Soggy Waffles (N-E-S-W).  After sunset we took the golf cart up to Duck Donuts and brought them back for everyone which was super fun.  It actually drove pretty fast on the road! I always marvel at the little things that the kids remember and what is fun for them.

We then decided to take a trip from Duck to Kill Devil Hills to visit the Wright Memorial.  It was the first time we'd been there so we were a little surprised to find out it was all outside.  They are in the process of building a new museum and definitely look forward to going back when it's done.  The kids were able to run the distance of the first, second, third and fourth flights back in 1903.  We learned a lot about why Wilbur and Orville's breakthrough was so critical - flight control not necessarily lift! We are both history buffs so we had a great time despite it being so super hot - we were dripping with sweat even at 10am.  The kids were able to climb on a replica bi-plane but could not be convinced to walk up the dunes to the monument at the top.  It will have to wait until next time.

The park service also had kites that you could borrow and fly and the kids had an absolute blast doing that.  And of course kite flying is fun when there is great wind!  We decided to stop by the Kitty Hawk kite store and let Reagan pick one (Cole picked a car instead).  Of course she wanted to fly it as soon as we got home.  It was Nana's birthday so we had dinner reservations with the adults.  It was nice to go out for a nice dinner and the amazing older cousins watched the younger ones.  My kids just adore their cousins.  After cake and birthday celebrations I took Reagan out to the beach so she could fly her new kite.  She did really well!

Thursday we decided to go with the younger cousins and Pop to the NC Aquarium while the older kids went jet skiing.  Unfortunately my work call that I thought would be short ended up taking longer than the group was at the aquarium so I missed it...but heard lots of fun stories about the jelly fish and sharks.  After the aquarium we headed to lunch and then back to the pool to cool off.  That night we decided to go out to the Life Saving Service Restaurant #5.  It was a really neat restaurant that was one of 7 life saving stations on the NC border.  The US LSS was founded to help victims of shipwrecks and later merged with the Cutter Reserve to form the US Coast Guard.

Friday we decided to head to Corolla to visit the Currituck Island Lighthouse.  We weren't sure what to expect and how the kids would handle the walk, but they had a good time.  Reagan did not, however like being so high up and was ready to descend as soon as we got to the top.  It was crazy hot and of course we walked the steps with no AC, but they had fans on the landings so it wasn't too bad.  The lighthouse was originally built in 1875 and had 220 steps - one way!  It was neat for the kids to learn that before electricity the light was powered by lard and then oil.  At first they thought it would be fun to be a light keeper until they realized they had to carry that lard up the stairs every day and had to go back up in the morning to turn off the flame.  And the light keeper had to get up every two hours to rewind the weights that created the "blinking" effect of the light.

Although we packed bathing suits with a plan to drive on the rural part of the beach at Corolla, it was pretty hot so we had a quick bite to eat and headed back to the house to play in the pool.  Also, we planned to head out about 5pm to drive back to NOVA and needed to pack.

If you remember from our vacation last year at OBX, Cole came down with a horrible headache that took him down for almost 2 days.  We were watching his water intake carefully this week and luckily had no problems!  It was nice having a week with no medical issues!  We feel very blessed to have had a great week together!

NOTE: For privacy reasons I do not post pictures of all the cousins.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

All it took was a camper and Reagan is on two wheels!

About a month ago we decided to get back into the camping world.  We listed the ATVs and they sold quickly.  Johnny has owned two pop-up campers before kids and we really enjoyed traveling and getting closer to nature.  It wasn't until recently that we thought the kids would be ready, and of course now that we have a camper with a bathroom that makes things MUCH easier.  We've been looking at travel trailers for a little over a year now trying to decide whether we wanted another pop-up or a hard side camper. Once we decided hard side, we then needed to decide size, weight and the type of fabrication.  And of course amenities.  The outside cookstove/fridge and outside shower were a big plus for Johnny.  Unlike cars where there is a finite number of manufacturers, campers are branded differently and sold at different locations.  So trying to compare and contrast styles and options is challenging.

The camper is a Keystone Passport Ultralite and is considered a 28' travel trailer. It has one queen bed, two double bunk beds (or a little smaller) and a kitchen table that breaks down into a bedding area that could sleep one or two kids.  It has a full shower, toilet, sink and a full kitchen with a stove, oven, microwave, refrigerator, freezer and sink.  It also has a flat screen TV, DVD  and a radio system with both indoor and outdoor speakers.  It is definitely more like "glamping" than "camping" but it makes it fun for the kids and a little easier for us since we can leave everything in the camper.  Other than food and clothes there isn't much to pack when it's go-time.

We picked up the camper last month and decided to take it out the day we picked it up since I am traveling a lot this summer for work.  We bought it at Reines RV in Manassas so we decided to make the short trek to Bull Run for the night.  We had a relaxing time breaking it in and figuring out all the buttons and gadgets.  We also had a few friends join us which the kids were very excited about !  They spent a lot of time playing at the playground, making s'mores and playing Bocce ball. They also got to pick up and learn about different animal bones that were in the camping store.

Since our first stay was so short, we decided to take the camper out again this weekend for the long holiday weekend.  Who knew camping sites book up so quickly?!  It was tough to find a space and most places had a three night minimum so we decided to go back to Bull Run for a little longer stay this time.

The kids had a great time at the playground again on our second trip.  We also decided to take the kids' bikes this trip.  Reagan asked to take off her training wheels a few months ago but our house sits on a hill and learning to ride has been very challenging.  Who knew that an hour of practicing at the camp site and she would master the two wheeled bike?!  Seeing the look on her face when she realized she was doing it was priceless.  I have no idea how many steps I got in, but wow, the kids biked forever...then more the next morning...and that night...and the next day.  She has gotten a lot more balanced and even getting back home she has been practicing and having a lot of fun riding.  As I was coming out of the camper Monday morning I caught Cole helping Reagan buckle her helmet.  She isn't able to do this with one hand and I thought it was so sweet that Cole was trying to help her despite having a really hard time seeing the buckle.  They fight a lot, but can be so very sweet with each other.  I love that I was able to capture this moment.  It really melted my heart to know that he was there when she needed help...even though it was really hard for him.

In addition to the bike riding, we spent the day Sunday at the Atlantis waterpark at the campground.  It was only $16 for a family of four and a lot of fun! It's pretty rare for mom and dad to go to the pool together and get in the water so the kids had a lot of fun swimming and going down the slides.

We also got introduced to something new on this trip.  It's a group called RV'ing Rocks.  I had no idea they exist, but it has over 3,600 members on their Facebook page.  People all over the country paint or decorate rocks and hide them at camp sites.  Then if you find it you can either keep it or hide it for someone else to find.  You're also supposed to take a picture and post it on the site for others to see.  Reagan was absolutely enamored by the rock.  Between the butterfly and the bling there was no way she was going to leave it there by the tree.  So needless to say we kept it and she is now very excited about painting rocks for others to find.  And the fun part is that I did post a picture on the site and the woman who hid the rock saw it and commented!  I told her why the butterfly means so much to us and she said this is the only rock she has made this way with paper.  She said she always paints them but this was a one-of-a-kind.  She was so touched when I told her Reagan was sleeping with the rock and wouldn't put it down after she found it.  We are excited about going camping again so we can hide rocks for others to find!

In addition to all the other activities, the kids had fun drawing and coloring inside and Reagan was a big helper with washing dishes and helping keep the camper clean and organized.  And notice how well she's holding that bowl with her left hand!!  It's super tough to squeeze soap on the scrub brush, but I helped her and she washed all the dishes and dried them by herself!

We are definitely "that" family who works a lot and is very "connected" with technology.  Although the devices did come with us and the kids did watch a movie Sunday night on the TV in the camper, we had a great time just being together as a family and having fun.  We are already learning some lessons about camping best practices and site selection to make sure our utilities can reach where they need to be.  We are also getting stocked up on the things that matter in the bug spray and calamine!  And my husband spoiled me with two strings of little lantern lights that we strung along the awning this trip.  It's amazing how much some campers go all out!  Some have full flag poles, flower pots and decorations all over their camp sites.  We are definitely more simplistic, but there are little things that make a big having a large area rug so the kids can come out without shoes and don't track the dirt and leaves inside the camper.  We added a toaster this trip since eggs and bagels on the fire just didn't taste the same with the smoked taste.  And next trip I think I'll be adding a coffee maker.  Although I liked the morning walk to the camp store for coffee, it would be nice to be able to have it more easily accessible.  I'm hope to share more camping adventures this Fall and some of the RVing Rocks designs that we create!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The School Year is Done and Swim Team Starts!

Wow, I can't believe this school year is done already.  It really seems like we were just taking first day of school pictures and gearing up for the big Kindergarten year for Cole and 2nd grade for Reagan.  This pictures shows the first and last day of school.

Reagan had a great 2nd grade year with Mrs. Arthur.  She kept a few friends from last year and made several new friends.  It was a tough year from a curriculum standpoint because there were many new concepts.  They started fractions, learned about mass and volume and studied the Indian tribes. She also had an increase in her reading and writing expectations.  Weekly word study continued this year and although she complained about it daily, her handwriting has gotten much better and she got into a rhythm.  She also transitioned from being pulled out for testing with a few peers to taking tests in the classroom.  This was a tough decision, but she asked for that change and we decided to try it.  She's looking forward to third grade next year and we are hoping to keep up with her skills over the summer by doing daily worksheets and reading.

Cole had a very good kindergarten year but it was not without some issues.  He learned a lot and got much better at writing.  They worked on spelling and writing sentences.  I often struggle with how much to include in my posts, but I also believe that through struggle we learn how hard we've worked to get where we are.  Cole did an AMAZING job as a kindergartener but had a really tough class. There were several kids who made the class a behavioral challenge despite having special needs support, and several others who are not yet identified and (in my humble opinion) did not have the resources they needed in the classroom.  His main teacher, Mrs. Bretcko went out on maternity leave in March and he had a full time substitute teacher, Mrs. Helmer.  Despite the hard work of both teachers in implementing behavior plans and expectations in the classroom, it was just a tough group of kids.  I had numerous meetings with the teacher, the substitute teacher, the principal and the counselor to discuss how we can make things better.  Cole received yellow "think sheets" regularly and it was very hard on him.  Each time I was told that he doesn't instigate the situation, but struggles to stay out of it.  He would get frustrated when kids would cut him in line and angry when someone stole his crayons.  And the other children were often breaking his magnifier.  One day someone called him dumb and he got a think sheet for telling that child to "shush it".  Most of this is normal kindergarten behavior, but it really started to break my heart when he said two weeks ago, "Mommy, when you get to Heaven will you wait for me? I'm such a bad kid I may never make it there."  He told me the best part of Memorial Day was that he knew he wouldn't get a yellow sheet because he wouldn't be at school.  And yesterday he said "mom, I had a horrible dream yesterday that everybody except Kendall hates me because I'm so naughty."  He is so sensitive and such a sweet boy. I truly hope he realizes what an amazing child he is and how proud of him we are.  I had a meeting with the principal to discuss next year's placement and truly hope next year brings good things!  When I see his developmental path, it has always been a little different than other children, despite being extremely smart.

In other news, Reagan had her 8 year check up with the pediatrician.  She's doing really well but the doctor ordered blood work and a bone age test because she is worried about her development.  We've completed all the testing and visited the endocrinologist.  Luckily all the tests came back within normal range and the endocrinologist said she looks great!  Super excited there is one less stress for us right now.

So with that we have moved into summer.  I've been traveling and working full time but they have their cousin Allison watching them and they are having a lot of fun!  The kids are doing swim team for the first time.   Reagan is swimming with the Cascades Rapids and Cole is with the Cascades Riptides.  It takes a lot of dedication with practice at 8am every day but they are both having a lot of fun and love seeing their friends every day. There are Wednesday night "developmental" meets that all swimmers can attend and Saturday meets for those who qualify.  I'm excited to say Reagan had her first meet last week and although she was very nervous, she did really well with both freestyle and backstroke.  Then today they had a Swim-A-Thon and Reagan swam 74 laps and Cole swam 30 laps.  I have to say - I'm SO impressed!!  They will both swim in the meet Wednesday against the Armfield Stingrays in Chantilly.  So excited to share some of the summer fun we will be having!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

2017 Lacrosse Season is a Wrap!

Reagan had another great season of lacrosse this year.  She definitely saw a lot of progress from the beginning of the season to the end.  She seemed to have a lot more fun this year because she knew a little more about what to expect and knew the basics.

Reagan played on the K-2 team again this year for the Algonkian Tribe. The girls ranged from ages 5 to 8.  There is such a huge developmental difference in that age range but the girls had a great time, played well together and learned a lot.  There were so many girls they divided them into two groups.  Soccer is definitely much more popular in NOVA so it's great seeing the increase in girls who are interested in the sport. You still have a lot less selection in girls equipment than boys, but seeing as I remember the year our high school added a lacrosse team we've come a long way since the 90's!

Johnny was able to be an assistant coach this year and said it was much tougher than coaching U13, which he did with his brother before we had kids.  All the coaches did a great job and worked really hard to keep the girls focused and having fun.

At the last practice the coaches gave all the girls a game ball with their name on it and a special title.  Reagan was voted "Cradling Queen."  She was very surprised since they didn't do the awards last year.  She was super excited.  They ended the season with a tournament on Saturday with almost all of the Loudoun Girls K-2 teams.  She played four 20 minute games over three hours.  They had a lot of fun and Reagan got a lot of action in the last game.  Not only did she carry the ball a lot, she was the top scorer on the team! She was pretty excited to find out that all the girls got trophies at the end of the tournament.  Again, something new this year and it even had her name engraved on it!  She was so excited!  Although lacrosse is a Spring sport, there is a "box league" in the Fall that she may try.  Apparently it's all games (no practice) and because it's inside it's a very fast moving game since the ball never goes out of bounds.  We love giving the kids the option to try different activities to find something they love and stick with it!